Rehearsing a scene from CLT’s upcoming production of “Annie” during Monday night’s dress rehearsal in Auburn are, from left, Sean Wallace as Oliver “Daddy” Warbucks, Dan Burgess as Harold Ickes, Jane Mitchell as Frances Perkins, Tessa Hayashida as Annie, Ken Mansur as Henry Morganthau, Roger Philippon as Franklin D. Roosevelt and David Handley as Louis Howe. Photo: Russ Dillingham
AUBURN — Leapin’ lizards! That irrepressible comic strip heroine Annie will take center stage starting Oct. 18 at the L-A Community Little Theatre in one of the world’s best-loved musicals.
Based on the popular Harold Gray comic strip “Little Orphan Annie,” with music by Charles Strouse, lyrics by Martin Charnin and book by Thomas Meehan, the original Broadway production of “Annie” opened in 1977 and ran for nearly six years. It spawned numerous productions in many countries, as well as national tours, and won the Tony Award for Best Musical. The songs “Tomorrow” and “It’s the Hard Knock Life” are among its most popular musical numbers.
The setting is New York City during the Depression, and Annie is determined to find the parents who abandoned her years ago at an orphanage run by the cruel Miss Hannigan. With the help of the other girls in the orphanage, Annie escapes and then encounters adventure after fun-filled adventure in the big city. She finds a new home and family through billionaire Oliver Warbucks, befriends President Franklin D. Roosevelt, and of course, finds a lovable mutt named Sandy.
“Annie is a classic tale of good versus evil. It’s also a story of hope and positivity, said director Paul G. Caron. “Annie personifies these attributes as she goes through several adventures to escape the grip of Miss Hannigan. She also shows that no matter how dark and desperate the times are, we can always expect a better tomorrow.”
Caron, who is also music director for the show, has assembled a talented cast of CLT veterans and newcomers. Playing the lead role of Annie is Tessa Hayashida, a seventh-grader at Auburn Middle School. “I decided to audition because Annie has always been one of my dream roles,” said Hayashida. “I have been obsessed with it since third grade when I sung ‘Tomorrow’ at my school’s talent show.”
Long-time CLT favorite Renee Mahon-Davis plays the evil Miss Hannigan, who runs the orphanage; Sean Wallace and Emily Flynn, who were the leads in last year’s “The Music Man,” play billionaire Oliver “Daddy” Warbucks and his secretary Grace Farrell. The conniving Rooster Hannigan and Lily St. Regis, who pretend to be Annie’s long-lost parents, are played by newcomers Chris Benoit and Rachel Campoli.
The plucky and persevering orphans are played by Shaylyn Brown, Anna Courtemanche, Isla Shovilin, Maria Groover, Ansley Kate Watson and Julia Groover. They perform two big song and dance numbers: “It’s the Hard-Knock Life” and “You’re Never Fully-Dressed Without a Smile.”
Annie’s dog Sandy is played by local celebrity dog Lucky, who has had a hard-knock life of his own, having a misshapen right leg amputated when he was just 12 weeks old. The 10-month-old pup is a therapy-dog-in-training with Christy Gardner, an Army veteran and USA para-Olympic multi-sport athlete. When Lucky appears on stage, Gardner stays just out of view in the wings. She acknowledges that she does have some “stage mom” jitters.
“The kids, all of them, took to Lucky immediately, as well as the cast,” said Caron. “Christy was able to train Lucky to do exactly what we need on stage. He can’t be barking, rolling around, and doing anything; he has to obey the commands and he has to act — we needed an actor.”
Caron also has a strong ensemble of 15 men and women, many of whom play multiple roles. The experienced “Annie” crew is led by choreographer Becca Tinkham, producer Jackie McDonald, stage manager Brandon Chaloux, and assistant director Kay Warren.
“Annie” will run Oct. 18, 19, 24, 25 and 26 at 7:30 p.m., and Sundays Oct. 20 and 27 at 2 p.m. For tickets, use the new online ticketing platform at www.LACLT.com or call the box office at 207-783-0958. The Community Little Theatre is located at 30 Academy St. in Auburn.